Move over, Beanie Baby and Furby. There’s a new ubiquitous, cartoon-faced plushie that’s taken over the internet and your local retailer’s shelves: Squishmallows by Jazwares, which most recently earned the distinction of being the “Toy of the Year” according to the Toy Foundation. The round and huggable pillows were first released in 2017 and, thanks to TikTok, have more recently skyrocketed in popularity. In March 2021, Jazwares said it had sold over 73 million toys cumulatively. Squishmallows have also won a lot of awards, like the 2021 National Parenting Product Award and the 2021 Best Toy, among others.
As parents around the country engage in the Christmastime retail chaos, we decided to dig into what exactly Squishmallows are and why people are so obsessed with them.
What is a Squishmallow?
Brightly colored plushies that come in a variety of character forms—over 1,000, to be more exact—made to be hugged and squeezed. They come in different sizes, from 3.5-inch clip-ons to an extra-large 24-inch pillow, essentially. Take Winston, an owl-shaped Squishmallow who is an aspiring chef and comes in at 12 inches for the rock-solid (actually quite soft) price of just $19.99!
So, it’s literally just a pillow?
Yes. An oval-shaped pillow that happens to have ears and hands and is incredibly huggable.
Who is it meant for?
Squishmallows are for everyone, whether you are 8 years old or 80 years old. As the executive director of the Toy Foundation said, “Everyone can benefit from a cuddly hug from a Squishmallow these days.”
One adult woman wrote about her obsession with Squishmallows and detailed why they might be so beloved: According to her, hugging one emits a feeling similar to sleeping under a weighted blanket. The plushie essentially delivers deep pressure stimulation—a feeling of being hugged that relaxes your nervous system.
How much are they?
Squishmallows range in price depending on their size; some go for $10, and others can go all the way up to $40.
Where can I buy one?
Basically anywhere you would think you can. They are available online through their own website, or on Amazon and at big-box retailers including Target, Party City, Five Below, and Costco.
How did Squishmallows get so popular?
A couple of critical elements seem to have combined to make Squishmallows wildly successful: a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, a huge variety of Squishmallows that allow them to be a collectible item, and their social media presence. Jazwares’ senior vice president told the Guardian that the low-priced toy really struck a chord with people stuck at home during COVID-19 related shutdowns who were also dealing with unprecedented levels of stress and anxiety that a soft plushie could temporarily ease. Then came social media, especially TikTok, which allowed Squishmallow fans to share their collections, their favorite characters, and where others can buy the coveted plushies.
It also helps that social media royalty, aka the Kardashian family, has frequently posted about Squishmallows, with Kim Kardashian’s eldest daughter North a notable Squishmallows collector. She joins Gen Z TikTok star Charli D’Amelio, who has also documented her collection of plushies.
Is this the next Beanie Babies–type toy?
It could be! The rarest of Squishmallows currently range from $1,399 to about $2,000. Some avid collectors have hundreds of Squishmallows and hunt for rare ones at retail stores around the country. The University of Alabama–Huntsville actually created an Instagram account for students’ Squishmallows that enables online and in-person meetups for fans.
Critically, there is a shortage situation at play here: Just the current collection of Squishmallows are available through the main Squishmallows website, which means past releases can be found only at third-party retailers or resellers like eBay. This has allowed the brightly colored plushies to become highly coveted and to appreciate in value once they are no longer part of the current collection.
What types of Squishmallow characters have there been?
Alongside Jazwares’ own collection, Disney has also produced a series of Squishmallows—we’re talking Tigger, Dumbo, Piglet, Eeyore, and Mickey and Minnie Mouse. The Pokemon Company has also collaborated with Squishmallow, with a Pikachu and a Gengar plushie.
There are even nonbinary Squishmallows that use they/them pronouns—though all Squishmallows could technically be considered as such, since none have a specified gender identity beyond this nonbinary identity.
OK, I think I’m sold. Which one should I buy?
You really can’t go wrong with a soft, huggable pillow. My current favorite ’Mallow is Wanda; her watermelon face is basically as cute as a baby’s, and she also makes the perfect sandwich—oh, to be Wanda for a day.